Saturday, June 12, 2010

No Surrender

(Peter Smith, 1985)
I really don't get how Telefilm Canada got mixed up in this film, which is as British as mushy peas - more appetizing, though. An impossibly dingy Liverpool pub becomes the staging ground for a new year's eve showdown between two busloads of seniors - one a Catholic costume party, one all Orange Lodge stodge. The sectarian rivalry is embodied by an assortment of aging ex-boxers, and augmented by all manner of bits and baubles - gangsters in the back room, feuding glam-punkers in the dressing room, a token turn by Elvis Costello as a nebbish magician, and Michael Angelis leading a very funny and attuned front-of-house. The integration of absurd humour and malevolent tension is quite effective, and sustains itself almost to the end, at which point of course things degenerate into large crowds noisily shoving from room to room. Then we get an unnecessarily pat and sentimental denouement, also very British but unworthy of the film's otherwise sharp outlook, not that I grasp even half of the cultural baggage they're unpacking here. That it hangs together regardless is quite likely attributable to 'supervising editor' Kevin Brownlow - the dense array of characters and relationships achieves a nice slow build, though inevitably there are spots that leave you wishing for more (Joanne Whalley's limey singing cook shows more promise than she gets to deliver) as well as less (the senile dementia shtick wants finesse).

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